Gabon is spending 463 billion franc CFA (about US$769 million) to host the 2017 African Cup of Nations (Afcon), Libreville-based publication Gabon Review revealed on Friday.
This is US$105 million more than it spent in 2012 when it co-organised the same competition with Equatorial Guinea, the online media outlet said.
The revelation has become the talk of the town and generated a heated debate in social media networks, with online users lashing out at the controversially re-elected President Ali Bongo and his government for rejoicing while the majority of the population is crying over better living conditions.
“So in the space of five years, Gabon has spent 863 billion FCFA (about US$1.5 billion) to organise sports competitions, an amount which is three times higher than the entire budget of the Central African Republic (259 billion FCFA or US$430 million), and representing over 85% of Togo national budget,” economics analyst Mays Mouissi told Gabon Review.
“This amount is critically huge in a current hostile economic environment when state revenues are down as a result of the decline in oil price,” Mouissi added, wondering about the motive to host a competition of such magnitude in troubled times like these.
The Central African nation, which is Africa’s fifth oil producer, was forced to review its annual budget when oil prices tumbled.
Some critics have echoed Mouissi’s sentiments, saying that given the hard times the country’s economy has been going through, this money could have been spent on social projects to eradicate poverty, and increase striking teachers’ salaries.
The country has been recently hit by a wave of civil servants’ strike over unpaid salaries and bonuses, and the improvement of working conditions.
But the government seems to have looked away, instead pushing financially and mentally for the competition to go ahead. Afcon 2017 will be held from 14 January to 5 February 2017 across four cities, the capital Libreville, Port-Gentil, Franceville and Oyem.
But there appears to be very little enthusiasm for the tournament among the population which is still recovering from the post-electoral violence. Dozens were killed and scores wounded when security forces used disproportionate force to quell street protests by supporters of the losing presidential candidate Jean Ping.
Photo: Gabon captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who plies his trade in Dortmund (Germany).